Officials tight-lipped on outcome of Hamas meeting

Ashraf Sweilam
3 Min Read

EL-ARISH, Egypt: A top Hamas delegation crossed into Egypt Thursday and met with Egyptian officials wanting to make clear that no further breaches of its border with the Gaza Strip will be tolerated, a security official said.

The Hamas delegation, led by Gaza strongman, Mahmoud Zahar came at the Egyptian request, after they received reports that the Islamist organization was planning to forcibly reopen the borders again at the end of the month, the official said speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Ahead of the meeting, the official said that the Egyptians planned on telling Hamas bluntly that the old self-restraint manner is over and that Egyptian security guards have been given orders to open fire on any Palestinians trying to cross the border.

A Hamas official in Gaza Strip said that a meeting with the Egyptians was over the future mechanisms for operating the border crossing to allow goods and passengers to travel between Gaza and Egypt freely without restrictions.

Officials from both sides refused to disclose details of the outcome of the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours.

A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, only said that Hamas kept pushing for the reopening of the Rafah crossing and insisted that Israeli and European monitors should not interfere if this happens.

Hamas wants a role in controlling the border crossing with Egypt, while the international community has affirmed its support for a 2005 agreement involving European and Israeli monitors and not the Islamist organization.

The meeting was to take place at the heavily guarded Swiss Inn hotel in El-Arish, some 45 km from the border, and will also involve negotiations over the opening of Rafah crossing, the official added.

Hamas blew open the sealed border with Egypt on Jan 23, letting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians break out of the blockaded Gaza.

While President Hosni Mubarak gave orders to allow Palestinians to cross, the wounding of Egyptian soldiers by Palestinian militants strained relations with Hamas and after reclosing the border, Egypt s foreign minister threatened to break the legs of any Palestinian crossing illegally.

Hamas had responded by saying that they would breach the border again if the blockade continues.

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